Format change to aid Quinny?

2015-07-17 19:02
Quinton de Kock (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - The marked alteration in tempo to Test cricket probably cannot come soon enough in Bangladesh to Quinton de Kock, one of the most labouring South African batsmen in the shock 2-1 one-day international series defeat.

He will get the opportunity from Wednesday at Chittagong - unless the brains trust drops a bomb by preferring uncapped Dane Vilas as wicketkeeper/batsman - to begin a personal repair job at the crease.

It should also help a great deal that he will not have to take guard upfront this time, given that he is likely to operate at either six or seven in the Proteas’ order and, all going well, either have ample time to play himself in or be in the reasonably relaxed role of “finisher” to already prosperous SA totals.

Despite the ODI debacle - after that rollicking, Kagiso Rabada-inspired start to the short series - the No 1-ranked tourists will remain smart money to earn revenge over the course of the two Tests.

That very fact ought to be at least one prong of the required gee-up for De Kock, who desperately seems in need of a mental lift.

As far as the 50-overs arena is concerned, the baby-faced customer is in the midst of a pretty grim, lingering trot in purely batting terms where his ascension to the prospective crown of some kind of “new Gilchrist” has been rather placed on the backburner in many observers’ minds.

The Australian maestro was always going to be a seriously hard act to emulate, but with the 22-year-old from Johannesburg making such forceful strides in the early portions of his ODI career, hopeful comparisons were inevitable: he just seemed such a similar future fit as an opener in that brand of the game and lower middle-order destroyer in the five-day code.

Remember that De Kock, whose sheer talent is barely in question, has still only played a meagre five Tests, so he is in the fledgling stages of life there.

Yet a hiccup has certainly occurred in his now 47-cap ODI tenure, where his average has “corrected” quite substantially to 37.22 from far loftier levels previously.

Right now, he seems a million miles away from the confident, free-spirited character who lashed three home centuries in as many innings - and all over the course of seven heady days - against India at the end of 2013.

It has been rough going for him - hardly helped by a rare lean spell also from opening partner and established genius Hashim Amla - since he came back from an ankle injury suffered in the first Test against West Indies last summer.

In 12 ODI knocks, beginning with the fifth and final clash with the Caribbean side on January 28, De Kock has compiled only 193 runs at an average of 17.54.

His lone “not out” has been the 78 he smashed against Sri Lanka in the Proteas’ best showing at the 2015 World Cup, when they romped to victory in the Sydney quarter-final.

But he hardly needs reminding that it came after six wretched innings at the tournament, including four single-figure scores.

Worryingly, he appears to have only lapsed into those unproductive and strangely tentative ways subsequently, with contributions of 35, two and seven against the Bangladeshis and a particularly all-at-sea dismissal in the decisive third fixture when he swished loosely to leg and was skittled through the gate by Mustafizur Rahman.

His footwork looks clumsy, unbalanced and too often misdirected, while he cuts a forlorn, mystified figure every time he is bundled out cheaply, as if the weight of the world is only increasing in his mind.

De Kock looks in need of both concentrated technical aid and a dollop of “TLC”, which may well be dispensed to his benefit in the coming days.

But looks can also be deceptive, can’t they?

Maybe the very transfer to the divergent needs of Test cricket is all it will take to get De Kock a happier, more runs-heavy bunny once more - a bit of good fortune, and some cracking, heartening reminders of his strengths in strokeplay could put him right back on course, and then some.

There have been suggestions from some experts - both recognised and decidedly amateur, it must be said - that he is struggling to come to terms with the unique challenges of batting on the Subcontinent.

But if he is to successfully wrestle the demons apparently swirling in his head, De Kock could do worse than remind himself that he has also shown some prior proficiency in those climes: ODI centuries in Abu Dhabi (against Pakistan) and Hambantota (Sri Lanka) serve heartening notice of that.

I still fancy that the ODI portion of the tour being over in a jiffy is no bad development for this particular player.

Wipe the slate clean, and all that ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  quinton de kock  |  cricket

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